For years, Sister Pat and other environmentalists have urged ExxonMobil to take significant steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its operations and products. In 2007, she proposed a resolution asking this energy giant to set a firm date for reporting on its progress.
“We’re the most profitable company in the history of the planet,” she told Rex Tillerson, then-CEO (and later Secretary of State in the Trump administration), at the company’s annual meeting, “but what will be our long-term health if we really… confronted with the regulatory and other challenges related to global warming?”
She added: “We, this company and each and every one of us, are now being challenged by one of the most profound moral concerns. And we have the means to respond to that.”
The proposal won 31 percent of the ballot, or about 1.4 billion shares, the largest number for an ExxonMobil resolution on climate change. While not an absolute victory, it was a page in a decades-long narrative that prompted ExxonMobil to appoint a climate scientist to its board in 2017 at tiny activist hedge fund, Engine No. 1.
“The arc of their work has led us to these victories by working from the inside and the outside,” said John Passacantando, the founder of Ozone Action, an anti-global warming group and former executive director of Greenpeace, in a phone interview.
In 1999, Vanity Fair inducted her into its Hall of Fame, applauding her as someone who “turns faith into commitment and never shies away from a fight.”
Mary Beth Gallagher, who replaced Sister Pat as executive director of the Tri-State Coalition in 2017, said Sister Pat was not frustrated when her resolutions were routinely rejected.
“She lived in hope,” Ms. Gallagher said. “We never talked about winning or losing. It was about raising awareness and education. If we don’t ask those questions, then who will?”